Vegan Nacho Cheese – The Real Food Dietitians

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Craving that ooey, gooey nacho cheese that you love to dip at baseball games? Perhaps you’ve always loved the bright orange “stuff” right out of the can, but just KNOW there’s a healthier way to enjoy it. We’re excited to share with you our veggie-loaded, all-natural version of vegan nacho cheese dip that is made with real food ingredients and that you can feel good about eating. This 100% plant-based cheese sauce recipe is made from a base of nutritious vegetables, cashews, roasted green chilies, lime juice, and spices.

This post was originally published on May 25, 2017; Updated on May 13, 2021.

Vegan nacho cheese in a bowl sprinkled with fresh herbs surrounded with blue and yellow tortilla chips

Can you make vegan nacho cheese without nuts?

Many non-dairy cheeses are made with a base of nuts (typically cashews), which makes for a nice creamy texture and flavor. In fact, we’ve created a delicious cashew-based Vegan Queso recipe that you can check out here. But if you don’t want to use a whole bunch of nuts, then this could be the recipe for you. This one is made with a base of Yukon Gold potato and carrot,  plus just a handful (1/2 cup) of cashews to add the right amount of healthful fats and texture. If you wanted to skip the cashews completely, you could replace them with 1/2 cup of silken tofu or 1/2 cup of shelled raw pumpkin seeds, OR add 1/2 cup of peeled diced zucchini to the pot with the potato and carrots during the last 5 minutes or cooking time.

A tray filled with vegan nacho cheese in a bowl surrounded with blue and yellow tortilla chips and fresh cut veggies.

Ingredients to make vegan nacho cheese sauce

  • Yukon Gold potato – we use this potato because it has a creamy golden flesh that’s delicious and creates the perfect consistency and natural color
  • Carrot – adds nutrition and natural color to the cheese sauce
  • Raw cashews – helps create the perfect texture, but you can substitute silken tofu or shelled raw pumpkin seeds
  • Unsweetened cashew or almond milk – or use any non-dairy milk
  • Avocado oil or olive oil – we like Primal Kitchen oils
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • Roasted green chiles – use a 4-ounce can

All ingredients for vegan nacho cheese in small glass bowls.

How to make vegan nacho cheese

Start by softening the cashews, potato, and carrots. To do so, place the raw cashews in a bowl and pour boiling water over top; cover and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Boil the potato and carrot pieces in a saucepan of water until they are softened, about 20 minutes, then drain.

Next, drain the cashews, potato, and carrots. Place them in a high-speed blender or food processor along with the non-dairy milk, green chiles, oil, fresh lime juice, and spices. Blend on high speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed, until the vegan nacho cheese sauce is smooth and thick.

 

Is vegan nacho cheese good for you?

It depends on what it’s made from. You’ll find some vegan cheeses made from a lot of processed ingredients, and you’ll find some made from whole foods. You can bet that our recipes are always packed with real food, nutritious ingredients, and this vegan nacho cheese recipe is no different. We used a mix of nutrient-filled plant-based foods to provide you with a lot of vitamins, minerals, healthful fats, and antioxidants. All that in the form of a perfectly “dippable,” wonderfully delicious, non-dairy vegan cheese sauce? You betcha! Ready to dig in?

We’ve also reigned in sodium and saturated fat a ton, so stack this up against any regular or vegan nacho cheese sauce on the market, and you won’t find a better nutritional recipe that tastes this good!

A black rimmed tray filled with vegan nacho cheese in a bowl surrounded with blue and yellow tortillas and fresh cut veggies

How to serve vegan nacho cheese sauce

There are so many ways to enjoy this recipe for vegan nacho cheese.

  • with raw veggies or chips for dipping
  • drizzled over burrito bowls, tacos, and fajitas
  • tossed with steamed broccoli or cauliflower
  • tossed with cooked pasta to make vegan mac n’ cheese

Try vegan nacho cheese with these recipes

How to store vegan nacho cheese

Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Stir again before serving. To serve warm, heat in the microwave for 1 minute, stirring after every 15 seconds.

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Let’s Get Cookin’

Vegan Nacho Cheese

If you’re craving that spicy, melty goodness of nacho cheese but don’t want the dairy, sodium, or yucky processed junk, then this is the recipe for you. In fact, we don’t think anyone will ever be able to tell this is vegan. By using a base of vegetables and nuts, you get an ultra-creamy dip made with real, whole-food ingredients plus healthful fats and plant-based nutrients.

  • Author: The Real Food Dietitians
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings (2 cups total) 1x
  • Cuisine: Paleo, Dairy-free, Vegan

Ingredients

  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cubed (1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into small pieces (1/2 cup)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced roasted green chiles
  • ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, such as cashew or almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (feel free to add more for a spicier sauce)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt + more to taste
  • Fresh cilantro and lime wedges for garnish, optional

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, place the cashews. Pour boiling water over the top to cover completely. Cover the bowl with a plate or kitchen towel and allow the nuts to soak while you prepare the vegetables.
  2. In a small saucepan, place the diced potatoes and carrots. Cover the vegetables with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.
  3. Drain the cashews and vegetables. Place the drained cashews, potato, and carrot in the container of a food processor or high-powered blender.
  4. Add the drained green chilies, non-dairy milk, oil, lime juice, and spices; blend on high, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl/blender, as needed. Process until the sauce is uniformly smooth. Add additional non-dairy milk, if desired, to achieve your desired consistency. Keep it thick for dipping, or make it thinner for drizzling.
  5. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Stir again before serving.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: ¼ cup
  • Calories: 91
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Sodium: 295 mg
  • Fat: 6 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 9 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Pin it Now & Make it Later!

Creamy vegan nacho cheese in a small bowl with a blue tortilla chip dipped in the cheese sauce

 

All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on The Real Food Dietitians. Thank you!

About Jessica Beacom

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Boulder, CO with her hubby and two daughters. She’s been described as a ‘real food evangelist’ and loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them break free of the diet mentality and find their own food freedom. In her spare time she enjoys CrossFit, telemark skiing, mountain biking, teaching herself how to play the banjo and camping out under the stars.





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